Homeschooling Begins

On day one of homeschooling, I laid out several centers for my daughter to play with.  There was a place for her to build, one of books for us to read together, markers, clay, and sorting bears.  I thought she was going to happily pick a place to play and love the setup.

“Mom?  I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?  Pick where you want to play, it’s up to you.”

“What do I do with all of this mom?  You have to tell me how to play with it all.  Give me directions.  I can’t start until you tell me what I’m supposed to do to get a sticker.  How do I get on green?” 

She sat there confused for ten minutes before she grabbed the sculpey.  “Is it ok if I just try and make something?”

She was tentative at first, not wanting to make a mistake.  I told her that there was just exploring that day, no mistakes to be had.  She would learn from what she did, good or bad.  As she worked with the material she became more and more confident that it would be ok.  By the time lunch rolled around, she was so lost in her work that she didn’t want to stop.

The first thing she made was a flower.  She had an entire story about it and why it doesn’t look like the rest of the flowers, but that makes it special.  When I told her we could cook it and make it hard, she got excited.  “Can I make more things to cook?”  I had creations going in and out of the oven all day.  My favorite sculpture of her is a snake that she made into a circle.  On it, she put four balls of different sizes.  She said that it was a racetrack and the different sizes were to show that the car was going fast.  The speed makes it look different from different places. 

By late afternoon, she looked up at me and said, “It makes me feel like me again.” 

“What does, honey?”

“Working with my art stuff and being creative.  I feel like me again.  So, let’s keep doing days like this.”

It hasn’t all been sunshine.  I don’t always feel like I know what I’m doing, and she keeps asking for Netflix only to be disappointed with an answer of no.  But, her creativity is starting to come out full force.  It’s like watching a flower that has been too long unable to grow start to come into full bloom.  She’s finding what she likes, and some things that she tries and doesn’t like so much.  However, it’s her decision not mine as to how she does and doesn’t want to learn and be taught.  I’m finding that I’m learning as much about her as she is.

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Craftwork vs Artwork

My daughter loves to create things. She has a bead set to make necklaces, she staples papers together to make books, and when she was 4 she tried to staple together a pair of pants for her little sister. When she’s at home, she has her art supplies and carte blanche to create whatever she wants to. Some of it’s good, some is interesting, but it all is from her creative self.

School, however, is a different story. Once every six days, she has art class. It’s really more craft class. In her take-home folder are projects where her hands have been traced, cut out, and glued to make a reindeer, or her hand-print is now a ghost. It turns out her hand-prints can be turned into a holiday appropriate craft project no matter what we’re celebrating. When she does get to draw freehand, it’s with a step by step instruction at the top of the page on ‘how to properly draw a car in 4 steps.’ She doesn’t do artwork at school – her project looks the same as every other kid in her class. She, instead, does craftwork.

School, in a perfect world, would teach creativity. It would teach her that not everyone will draw the same car and that’s OK. Instead, she got a smiley face because the car (which was a VW Bug) looked just like the instructions. She makes cookie cutter crafts at the expense of seeing what awesome thing she could do. When she gets the chance, amazing things can happen. But she and all the other kindergartners need, heck they crave, that chance.

I remember being that age and just being handed some clay with the instructions, “Create.” Not make a pot. Not make a snake. Not even don’t make a mess. When kids are being creative, it’s going to be messy. In that mess, though, they can find wonder and imagination and beauty. When they become adults, they’re also going to need to find wonder and imagination and beauty in the face of mess – why not teach them how now when the aftermath can be easily cleaned?

Tonight, as I kissed her head and told her to sleep well, she said, “Mom, tomorrow when I get home from school, can we do art together. But not crafts, only art. I want to try to make pants and a shirt, so can you find me fabric. But don’t cut it, I need to figure out how to make pants bigger than last time. That’ll be something fun to do together. I can’t learn to make pants if I don’t try.”

I love that she differentiates between crafts and art. Tomorrow afternoon, let the creativity commence.

The Importance of a Leaf

My oldest child is in Kindergarten, and I really like her teacher.  This happened last week.

I took Katie to a math and literacy night at her school. It was good, and she loved being read to in school at night. At one of the tables, the activity was to write your name on, color, and cut out a leaf. I handed Katie a pen and told her to write. “Are you sure you don’t want some help, honey” came a voice. “She’s good, she can write her name by herself.”

Katie colors her leaf and grabs the big scissors off the table and starts cutting. “Sweetie, you should really use the little scissors.” Katie looks at me and looks at the woman “But, the little ones hurt my hand and I…” Her voice trails off and she looks at me. “At home, she uses a grown up pair of kitchen shears – she’s fine.” The woman walks away. A few minutes later she comes back. “You look like you’re struggling. Why don’t you let me do it? I can help.” I step in, again. “She’s fine. It’s her leaf. She will do it on her own.” “But, how are you going to do everything else if she spends her time on this.” “This is her leaf. It’s her project. She’s going to do it on her own because I know she can. I know how to cut out a leaf – I don’t need to practice. I’m assuming you don’t either. It’s hers.”

The woman walks away, comes back. “You’re just working so hard on that leaf. You’re still at it – it’s been a while.” Over the course of the next ten minutes, three people offered to help her.  All of them looked frustrated with my refusal to allow it.  After the third, Katie put the scissors down, looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can do this.  It must be too hard.”  I told her that was fine, she didn’t have to finish it, but no one else would either.  She picked the scissors back up.

Katie cut the whole leaf by herself. Looking around, there were mostly adults cutting these leaves out – even when the child was in 2nd grade. But dammit, my kid did her leaf, on her own, and looked so proud at the end. She held it up to the ‘helper’ and said, “See my leaf! It’s only mine because I did it all by myself. I just took my time and was careful, and it’s MINE only.”

We have to trust that kids have capabilities or risk having them default to adults and never learn the skills needed to be independent. It was little. It was just a leaf coloring page. But, if I take it from her and do it for her, I’ve just taught her that she is unnecessary in her own projects.